With all Super Rugby teams taking shape, next year's competition will be one of the most exciting yet.

With the inclusion of former league star Benji Marshall and notable transfers within franchises, Super Rugby in 2014 is going to have a new feel to it. This is the first in a three-part prediction series which will feature all Super Rugby teams.

First, to New Zealand:


Last season: 10th

Key players: Steven Luatua, Benji Marshall, Charles Piutau

Prediction: The Blues have formed an exciting team for next year and could be one to watch. They have lost a lot of experience through Ali Williams (Toulon), Anthony Boric (Mitsubishi) and Rene Ranger (Montpellier) but have gained the talented Marshall and All Blacks quartet Tony Woodcock, Ma'a Nonu, Tom Donnelly and Jerome Kaino.

They have a good mix of experience and new blood. Expect Luatua, Francis Saili and Piutau to make a huge impact on the competition.



Last year: Champions

Key players: Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Tim Nanai-Williams

Prediction: There is no reason why the Chiefs cannot successfully defend their title. They have retained the bulk of their squad, only notably losing captain Craig Clarke (Connacht) and Lelia Masaga (Honda).

They have been quite busy in the off-season, signing former All Black Jamie Mackintosh as well as Robbie Fruean, Mils Muliaina, James Lowe and Tom Marshall. Cane will get more time in the Chiefs' number seven jersey after impressing for the All Blacks this year and Cruden will continue the good form he has previously shown for the Chiefs.



Last year: 11th

Key players: Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea

Prediction: The Hurricanes had a tough time last season, only managing six wins, but there is no reason why they can't turn it around next year.

They are not short on talent with the likes of All Blacks Ben Franks, Dane Coles, TJ Perenara, Barrett, Conrad Smith, Savea and Cory Jane. They also have what many see as the All Blacks' future in Savea. The strong ball carrier will have a big impact in 2014.



Last year: Semi-Finalists

Key Players: Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Israel Dagg

Prediction: You always know what you're going to get with a Crusaders campaign. They have to turn their slow starts around so they don't leave their run to the finals too late in the season like in previous years.

They have not lost a lot of their players and still have all the stars, however they will be without Dan Carter until after the June Test window due to his sabbatical. This shouldn't be a problem for the red and blacks though, with capable replacements such as Colin Slade from the Highlanders, Tyler Bleyendaal and new All Black Tom Taylor.



Last Year: 14th

Key Players: Brad Thorn, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith

Prediction: It was a dismal year for the Highlanders last year, as they managed just three wins. But a new year means new challenges and coach Jamie Joseph was making positive steps before 2013.

I expect the Highlanders to do well with notable signings Kurt Baker, Patrick Osbourne and Shane Christie looking to move to higher honours. They have lost seven current or former All Blacks so it will be a rebuilding phase. They will be looking to strengthen the squad and have the inspirational Brad Thorn to look up to.



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